international flags

Today I visited the embassies  of (in alphabetical order):  Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia.  Everyone with whom I met was very helpful even if they didn’t know much about NGO’s working on peacebuilding and reconciliation in their respective countries.  The people with whom I spoke either took my information and said someone would get back to me or gave me the correct email address and assured me someone would reply.

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Sculpture of “St. Jerome the Priest, Greatest Doctor of the Church;” Ivan Mestrovic

The Croatian embassy was the most impressive with a beautiful sculpture of St. Jerome by the famed sculptor Ivan Mestrovic in front.  It also boasted the EU flag (which the other two countries don’t have yet). The political officer at the Serbian embassy told me they were actually renting their facility from Ethiopia (so where does Ethiopia hang its hat…?) because the embassy on “R” Street is undergoing renovations — “for several years now,” she said with the kind of laugh that made me think it would probably be under construction for “several” years yet to come.  Both the Bosnian and Croatian consular officers assured me it was safe to travel with Serbian license plates and the Serbian officer gave me some useful advice about the safest way to visit the monasteries in Kosovo, if I should choose to do so..

So I got some useful information along with some insights, and also provided Waze with photos of all three embassies to help other Wazers find them (awarded 18 points total for that!).  But the biggest “aha” of the day came, as these things often do, not from what I sought to find but rather what found me.

map of embassies dcAs I worked my way through the west end of DC where many of the embassies are (Massachusetts Avenue is actually nicknamed “Embassy Row”) I was struck by how changeable landscapes can be.

Consider:  twenty five years ago there was one Yugoslav embassy; now there are six or seven (not sure if Kosovo has its own yet).  I drove by both Macedonia and Slovenia  today as well– Macedonia is a lovely Victorian house with a big wraparound porch and backs up to Serbia; Slovenia is very modern, lots of glass, also has the EU “you’ve made it” flag.

german embassy

Embassy of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland

And consider this:  Japan has a gorgeous embassy on prime Mass Ave real estate.  70 years ago?  Not so much.  Same with Germany — which has moved onto an impressive campus in the ultra upmarket Foxhall Road area of town.

But the real “aha” for me today was this:  in the spring of 1985, a group of seminarians from Virginia Theological Seminary went to 3051 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC, 20008 to join a protest march. We actually were not permitted by police to march directly in front of the property but got as close as we could.  We were peaceful, carrying signs deploring the injustice of apartheid.  Several of the more courageous among us volunteered to be arrested.  We felt good about what we had done but also, with great sadness in our hearts, could not truly imagine a day when that oppressive system would actually come to an end.

And then, today, I drove by 3051 Massachusetts Avenue again.  And this is what I saw standing tall in front of the embassy of that once benighted land:

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The words say: Nelson Mandela, Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner, Statesman. The statue was erected in September 2013

And I thought, maybe, just maybe that can also happen in other parts of the world now so rent asunder by hatred.  Maybe, if Truth and Reconciliation could become a reality in South Africa, there is hope…


About revwaf

I am an Episcopal priest with a passion for travel. I am married and the mother of two grown children. This blog is about my return to the countries of former Yugoslavia during my summer 2015 sabbatical
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6 Responses to Embassies

  1. Pingback: Embassies | mybalkanodyssey

  2. Robin Lawrie says:

    How the world changes!! You’ve beautifully illustrated this with your description of embassies past and present. I can only wonder about the future – will we ever have a smaller number, rather than a greater number, of embassies/countries? I don’t even know which would be preferable. But I do know that tolerance for diversity, which your post illustrates, seems to be on the increase. Wonderful! Thanks for your posts!!
    I do have a couple of minor questions: What is NGO? What is Waze? Sorry to be so backward. I guess I could Google them . . .


    • revwaf says:

      Thank you, Robin!
      Ah yes, shorthand… “NGO” = “Non Governmental Organization.”
      “Waze” is a great real-time, interactive map app for smart phones. It not only gives you routes and locations, but invites users to upload pertinent information such as “Police ahead,” or “Red light camera ahead.” So I uploaded photos of the three embassies so that other “Wazers” can find them more easily. Waze gives points for shared information.


  3. revwaf says:

    The Serbian political officer got back to me today with a very helpful link to NGO’s working in the region. Thank you so much!!


  4. Janus says:

    i am enjoying this blog. I have traveled to DC many times and never considered the geopolitics of the embassies. You have thoughtful and interesting insights. I am looking forward to your take on the Balkans.


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